The New Orleans Saints' rivals reeled in some big names in the NFL draft's first round on Thursday night.

Here's a look at where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers stand going into rounds two and three.


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers are counting on Jameis Winston to help them become relevant again.

The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was selected with the first overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, instantly becoming the face of a franchise that missed the playoffs the past seven seasons and hasn't won a postseason game since the club's Super Bowl run in 2002.

Coach Lovie Smith and Jason Licht made the call, concluding after months of interviews and exhaustive research that Winston not only can be the answer to team's offensive woes, but that the 21-year-old has learned from off-the-field mistakes that threatened to undermine his stock in the draft.

"If he wasn't a good guy, we wouldn't have used the first pick on him," Licht said.

"He's a champion. He's a leader. He's a winner. He's got tremendous football character, tremendous intelligence and work ethic," the GM added. "His work ethic is one thing that really, really put him over the top for us."

In selecting Winston, the 2013 Heisman winner who a former Florida State student said sexually assaulted her though he said the sex was consensual and was never charged or arrested, the Bucs passed on 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. The Oregon standout was the other quarterback under consideration for the top pick.

Winston, who led Florida State to a national title two years ago and finished 26-1 as the Seminoles starter, chose not to travel to Chicago for the draft. Instead, he remained in his hometown of Bessemer, Alabama, with family and friends.

The Bucs haven't made the playoffs since 2007 and have gone through three coaching changes and eight different starting quarterbacks since then, including Josh Freeman, a first-round draft pick in 2009.

Winston isn't concerned about high expectations. He thrived on them in college.

"The challenge is just being an NFL player, period. I'm not worried about any off-the-field situations or even on-the-field situations," he said. "I'm just worried about living this new lifestyle and just developing into a great man for the Tampa Bay community for my teammates, because it's all for them and it's all for the success of this franchise."



FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was prepared to trade up to get his pass rusher.

The way the first round developed, a deal wasn't necessary.

The Falcons selected Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley with the No. 8 overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday night to address a glaring need on a struggling defense.

The selections of wide receivers Amari Cooper by the Raiders at No. 4 and Kevin White by the Bears at No. 7 helped to keep Beasley on the board. Another key was Washington selecting offensive lineman Brandon Scherff with the fifth pick.

Dimitroff and first-year coach Dan Quinn were relieved.

"In our situation there's always a thought about moving up," Dimitroff said. "We've been aggressive over the years in our approach here and Dan was in line with that thought process. If there had been a run on pass rushers it might have precipitated us moving up. We were again fortunate he was there."

Dimitroff has made at least one trade in each of his first seven drafts in Atlanta.

Beasley was regarded as perhaps the most explosive edge rusher in the draft. Asked what he planned to bring to Atlanta's defense, Beasley said "I'm a double-digit sack guy. I'm going to bring a great pass rush."

Atlanta has made improving its defense an offseason priority under Quinn, the former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator.

Quinn and Dimitroff interviewed Beasley at the NFL combine and again in a visit at Clemson.

The Falcons gave up the most total yards and passing yards in 2014. Their 22 sacks were the second-fewest in the league. Defensive end Kroy Biermann led the team with only 4 1/2 sacks.

Beasley (6-3, 235) should help improve those numbers.

He had 33 sacks in his career to set a Clemson record and was a first-team All-America selection. He had 12 sacks as a senior in 2014.

Quinn said Beasley's strength is his "first-step quickness."

"Usually for a rusher, when you can really get off the spot, that's one of the things you really talk about," Quinn said. "Can a guy get off his spot? When we evaluated all the guys, that was the thing that really jumped out, his initial quickness. When you can beat a guy to the punch, that's when you have your most success as a rusher and he can certainly do that."



CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Ron Rivera said the Carolina Panthers wanted to get more creative on defense.

The fifth-year coach believes Shaq Thompson gives them that ability.

The Panthers selected the versatile outside linebacker from Washington with the No. 25 overall pick in the NFL draft, bolstering a defense that has finished in the top 10 in the league in each of the last three seasons under coordinator Sean McDermott.

General manager Dave Gettleman called Thompson a "top shelf kid" with all of the qualities the Panthers were looking for heading into the draft including speed and playmaking ability.

"He's going to allow us to put three very fast linebackers on the field," Gettleman said.

Rivera said that with Thompson playing alongside Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, the Panthers will be able to keep three linebackers on the field more often, thus preventing offenses from dictating what defense Carolina must play. Last year, the Panthers were forced to sub out their third linebacker, A.J. Klein, for an extra defensive back to give them more speed on the field on passing downs.

The coach believes Thompson will help when defending teams that use two tight end sets. Rivera mentioned the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks, which acquired Jimmy Graham in the offseason, as a prime example.

The 6-foot, 228-pound Thompson was the winner of the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation's most versatile player.

He scored six touchdowns in 2014 — four on defense and two as a running back. He even started at tailback against Colorado last year and ran for 174 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and caught two passes for 41 yards.

Thompson had 3.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and five fumble recoveries in 40 games at Washington.

He feels like he can become one of the best linebackers in the NFL playing alongside Kuechly, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, and Davis. Thompson said he's looking forward to picking their brains.

"They are two of the best linebackers in the game," Thompson said.